There was literally no stopping the L.A. Lakers en route to their 1987 NBA championship title. The winning ‘machine’ assembled by GM Jerry West, coached by Pat Riley and led by 1987 MVP Magic Johnson outran and outplayed the competition in every imaginable aspect of the game. Their game against the Sacramento Kings demonstrates it best.
The ‘86/’87 Sacramento Kings finished the season with a 29-53 regular-season record. Their season was highlighted by the play of G Reggie Theus (20.3ppg, 8.8apg) and PF Otis Thorpe (18.9ppg, 10.0rpg). On the other hand, the Lakers cruised to a 65-17 regular-season record, finished 1st in the Pacific division. MVP Magic Johnson had just a phenomenal season – he averaged 23.9ppg, 12.2apg, and 6.1rpg. Facilitating Lakers offense, he made all the players around him better – that year, seven Lakers averaged 10+ points per game!
But even with those two teams going in completely opposite directions, nobody could predict what happened in their encounter on February 4th, 1987.
That day in L.A., the mighty Lakers offensive ‘avalanche’ had struck the visiting Kings in what became one of the premium and most impressive pieces of evidence of the 1980s L.A. Lakers offensive superiority!
To that point in time, the Kings had lost 19 straight regular-season games to the Lakers. Even more upsetting to the Kings was an unbelievable string of 30 consecutive losses at the Great Western Forum!
While completely outrebounding the Kings, the Lakers also managed to force seven Kings turnovers in the first quarter alone. That triggered the patented Lakers Showtime fastbreak led by Magic Johnson, who dished out 15 assists in the first 15 minutes of the game and finished the game with a total of 17 dimes.
The primary beneficiaries of Magic’s passing wizardry were SG Byron Scott, who scored 17 of his 21 points in the game in the first quarter, and PF A.C. Green, who scored 14 points in the first quarter.
“Bizarre. I’ve been in the pro game 20 years and never seen anything like it. We just got it going, then we just started to go better, and after six or seven minutes, you could sense that something was happening. Their shots started to get short, we blocked shots, there were turnovers–it was extraordinary. There was a lot of effort, a lot of good play–and a hell of a lot of luck.”Pat Riley
After the King’s head coach Phil Johnson called time-out with the score 16-0 in favor of the Lakers, only 3 minutes and 47 seconds into the game, the legendary Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn announced that the game is actually most likely over by saying ‘The game is in the refrigerator’.
Finally, with the Lakers up 29-0, it was the Kings small forward Derek Smith who got fouled by A.C. Green and then managed to hit two free-throws with 2:54 left in the first quarter. Ironically, Smith thus ignited the crowd of 14,729 Lakers fans and got a standing ovation!
After Smith, it was Reggie Theus who made his two free throws with 31 seconds left in the quarter. For the game, Kings shot 32-33 from the charity stripe, in complete contrast to their 38% from the field.
“It felt good. It was frightening to think that we might not score for the quarter. When you’re down, 10-0, to the Lakers, you know it’s getting bad. When it’s 16-0, you know it’s real bad. When it’s 22-0, you’re critical, and they might as well pull the plug. It don’t take no Einstein to figure out when it’s 27-0 and Kurt Rambis is hitting 20-foot jumpers, and they’re running plays for him, that you’re in trouble.”Derek Smith, Los Angeles Clippers
By scoring only 4 points in the first period on 0-18 shooting from the field, Sacramento Kings set the new record for the fewest points in the first quarter by any team since the introduction of the 24-second shot clock back in 1954! They also became only the third team in the NBA history, at the time, which scored only four points in a single quarter, alongside Fort Wayne Pistons in 1947 and Buffalo Braves in 1972.
Interestingly, after trailing 40-4 after the 1st quarter, Kings managed to pull out an even result in the second quarter by going 31-31, making it 71-35 at the halftime. With the Laker’s first frontal attack over and the game already in their custody, Riley decided to pull out the starters and give significant minutes to all of his reserves.
The Lakers reserves answered the call, finishing up the job admirably. All seven of the Lakers reserves scored, outscoring the Kings bench by 61-23! Billy Thompson and Adrian Branch were all over the Great Western Forum floor and rarely used center Mike Smrek scored his season-high – 8 points! The Lakers won the game 128-92.